Sir Ralf, Mr Ratan Tata, it’s a great pleasure to see you here if I may say so, and for taking so much trouble to be here with us today. I must say Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m also touched by what Sir Ralf just said, I don’t think I deserved anything like that, it’s just that after - is it really 50 years - after all that effort it’s taken years off my life. It’s very nice to hear you say nice things.
I must say that today is the greatest possible pleasure to have this opportunity to be with you all here today, particularly if I may say so having only recently visited Cambridge University’s Whittle Laboratory to see their world-leading research and development efforts on innovative next generation aero engines and aircraft design. Likewise, this centre, in the heart of the United Kingdom, brings together, from industry and academia, some of the brightest minds to tackle some of our society’s toughest problems.
And in this regard I must particularly thank all those who have made this facility possible – Jaguar Land Rover, Warwick Manufacturing Group, Tata Motors, the University of Warwick and of course Research England.
As some of you may have discovered by now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been pressing for action on environmental issues for more years than I care to remember – in fact it is 50 years - since the days when I think probably the only electric vehicles on the roads were the occasional milk float.
In all the years since then, what has always struck me when looking at the challenge of changing not only technology, but human behaviour, is the need for a co-operative, joined-up approach, between all those who are pursuing the same goal, by whatever means.
It seems to me also that key to finding these solutions is a relentlessly pioneering spirit. And that is what I know this area, and this whole marvellous region, has always had in great abundance. With such a fine heritage of inventiveness and innovation to inspire you from the past, there could be no better place in which to make the discoveries of the future.
It was the late Professor Lord Bhattacharryya who had the initial foresight and vision to create the National Automotive Innovation Centre, which is now pulling together many of the most talented people tackling society’s greatest mobility challenges and is helping to shape the future of the automotive industry.
I hope the centre will continue to inspire the next generation of automotive designers, engineers and researchers to innovate through collaborative research projects with manufacturers, suppliers and of course with academia.
Ladies and Gentlemen, only last month in Davos, I launched my Sustainable Markets Council, together with the generous support of the World Economic Forum. As part of this, I will be convening a broad range of industry and sector roundtables including one focussed on electric – and, for that matter, hydrogen – vehicles. I hope the passion and drive to innovate that is emerging from this Centre can feed into this work and help become a platform of change in transforming the automotive industry while ensuring that all sections of society have an opportunity to come on this journey together.
If we want to keep travelling, then we really have no choice other than to decarbonise this essential industry, as rapidly as possible.
By bringing the key people together we can make a real difference in the efforts to transform the way we travel. In this regard, I can only wish you every possible success with your work.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing could give me greater pleasure than to wonder what is lurking beneath this interesting cloth. And I will attempt to unveil this plaque and mark the official opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre, without the aid of any exciting technology.